In the Summer a run to Matlock is quite pleasurable, as one can take in the views as you amble up and down the country lanes and hillsides. On a dark November snowy night that drive turns into a major arsehole (made worse on the way home by a diversion), but all the same I’m glad that I went. The venue itself is easy to walk by, but once you find it, it’s very welcoming. Owing to a double-booking the WI had the function room and the comedy was in the front room of the pub. This was frustrating, but with the bar closed and the music off, the coal fire and intimacy of the smaller room didn’t hurt the night at all. This was the third ever gig here and I’m hoping that they have more, as this could be really nice. The bill perhaps wasn’t quite as balanced as it could be, as we had a prop gag one-liner comic opening and a one-liner comedian closing and the middle act had a few prop gags, but in fairness, the gaps between the one-liners and the lack of props used by the closer mitigated this imbalance.
Marshall B Anderson (host)
As the audience wasn’t huge on this snowy and generally unpleasant night, Anderson warmed the room up with some early Christmas material, which was close enough to December to work. I especially enjoyed the line about Eastenders as it contained a lot of truth and it’s entirely possible that there is a small routine just in that. The politics I could take or leave. The joke was fine, but it did stray a bit into making a point rather than being hugely funny. Very soon the room was ready for Roger to appear.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen Swift. Certainly prior to Edinburgh and so it was lovely to see lots of little improvements to his performance. He was smoother with the props and had got them arranged so that they flowed more easily than before. There was also some impressive attention to detail in evidence, such as the tattoo on ‘Dave’. Small crowds don’t always suit Swift as sometimes people seem a bit reluctant to laugh at first and the asides don’t always land as well. Tonight he spent the first couple of minutes winning the audience over, but he pretty quickly had them with him, even if one chap seemed to be a bit hot and cold at times. There were laughs, groans, cheers and a brief sing-along to The lion sleeps tonight. Roger had brought his telly with him for some of the gags and this worked extremely well in breaking up the twenty and kept things fresh. I did worry for the telly, as it seemed to wobble a lot on the stool and I probably wasn’t the only person who felt quite relieved when he took it off at the end. There was a moment where the photo of a rancid scone was left on the screen whilst Roger did more gags and that seemed to be an unfortunate backdrop – perhaps that could be flicked on one to a sign saying ‘5 more minutes only’ or something else deprecating? Out of the new gags, Sorry and Porridge were a lovely pairing and the leper joke was superb. There was a possibly tricky moment where Swift set up a gag for a prop that wasn’t there, but he handled this very well and the audience might even have thought it was scripted. The pub definitely enjoyed this performance and it was an experience and a joy for all to see.
Mrs No Overall
We resumed after the intermission with Mrs No Overall who to begin with seemed to fall between being a character and a novelty act. She took to the stage festooned in cleaning equipment and then danced to a jazzed up version of the theme from a Space Odyssey, throwing dusters about and pulling scourers and brushes out from her top and stripping down to a leotard. This was definitely a unique way of starting a set, but unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of comedy in it. Also, although she kept it decent, I’m far from convinced that acts taking off clothing, even as a gimmick, is the way forwards – anyone walking in would have wondered just what sort of act had been booked. This was followed by a few prop gags, which weren’t helped by the door to the WI annual dinner being opened and some horrible noise bleed. However, this did lead to the highlight of the set when for comedy effect she shouted at them to shut up, thinking no one was there and got quite a meek ‘sorry’ come back. There were a few jokes, but if I were to tell that they involved Subway and a 6” and a 12” you can probably guess which way they were heading. The room was keener on her than I was. There was quite a bit of dead time where she didn’t say a lot in between sections and that time could have been filled with material to add to the pace of the jokes. There is also a huge requirement for a proper ending, or any ending to her set, as it seemed to finish all of a sudden without any definitive closing. Perhaps since she started with music, ending with a musical gag might work? Although this wasn’t an act that I enjoyed, Mrs No Overall was good with talking to the audience and perhaps adding more of that to the set would help. It’s possible that she may be stronger as a compere than as an act.
We closed with one of the biggest personalities you’ll see in any room, Chris Norton-Walker. CNW has changed his style from doing lots of crowd work to one-liners – or more accurately reverted to this, as I believe that is how he started and I can understand why. Jokes will work in any room, and having the ability to get a lot from the audience if need be is a wonderful plan B should it be required. CNW hit the ground running with a few solid fast jokes to establish his credibility and this worked very well and he built up momentum. There were some smart jokes here and this meant that every so often there would be a lovely delay whilst a few people got them. 4 star was my personal favourite of the set, being delivered with panache and quickly enough that no one had a chance to fill in the reveal themselves, although having said that scrap heap challenge was also strong. There was a great moment when one chap suggested another punchline to a joke so CNW retold the joke with that person’s suggestion to a lot of sarcastic laughter and there was a bit of an odd moment when a bloke who’d been a bit hot and cold in Roger’s set got involved and then tried to pull back out of it. There was also a possible chance for a callback to stage diving which may make a nice addition. This was a very entertaining set. There are a fair few one-liner comedians out there and there are also a few acts who do a lot of audience work. However, there aren’t many who are in a position to combine the two and this could make Chris Norton-Walker stand out very well indeed.